See Stormy Daniels’ exclusive 2019 interview with NBC4 about her arrest in the video player above.
COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The porn actress entangled in a case that ultimately led to the first criminal indictment against a former U.S. president also saw her own charges in Columbus, but she wasn’t the one who saw punitive action at the end of it.
Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, rose to fame beyond the adult industry over a $130,000 payment given to her before former President Donald Trump’s election in 2016. The payment was made as part of a nondisclosure agreement as Daniels was prepared to go public with claims she had a sexual relationship with Trump — an affair he denies.
Daniels then took part in a campaign of her own, using the industry she was familiar with. Daniels launched a nationwide tour to perform in strip clubs, simultaneously attracting media attention as reporters flocked to try to learn more about her claims of a presidential affair. She named Sirens Columbus as a July 2018 stop.
Daniels was to perform on both July 11 and 12. However, on the night of her first appearance, Columbus police conducted what City Attorney Zach Klein later referred to as a sting operation. Officers arrested Daniels at Sirens and charged her with three misdemeanor sex offenses. Investigators claimed she inappropriately touched an undercover female officer, violating an Ohio law.
Columbus police later released body camera video of Daniels’ arrest at the strip club. As officers lead her to a van to take her to the Franklin County Jail, they asked if she was aware of the Community Defense Act, which prevents strippers from touching patrons. Daniels responded that she had never heard of it and said it was supposed to be the club’s responsibility to make her aware of any state laws.
Hours after Daniels’ arrest, Klein dismissed the charges. His office clarified that it was not involved in Columbus police’s sting, and that they missed a key detail of the Community Defense Act.
“My office has reviewed the charges filed by the Columbus Division of Police, and I’ve determined that these crimes were not committed, based on the fact that Ms. Clifford has not made regular appearances at this establishment as required under the law,” Klein said.
Daniels returned to perform again at Sirens that evening after her arrest. Then, at the beginning of 2019, she followed up by suing Columbus police over the arrest. She claimed it was an attempt by the officers to disparage her character and credibility over her criticism of Trump at the time.
In March 2019, Columbus police disbanded its Vice Unit, which was responsible for Daniels’ arrest. Shortly after the year anniversary of her local performances and arrest, the Columbus Division of Police filed departmental charges against five officers involved in the sting. Tom Quinlan, police chief at the time, said the group violated the division’s rules of conduct:
- Commander Terry Moore
- Lt. Ron Kemmerling
- Sgt. Scott Soha
- Detective Steven Rosser
- Detective Whitney Lancaster
The officers’ charges and Daniels’ lawsuit saw intermittent developments throughout 2019. While her lawsuit originally sought $2 million in damages, she eventually reached a $450,000 settlement with the City of Columbus in September. Daniels spoke with NBC4 exclusively after the decision.
“I didn’t break any law, and I knew that,” Daniels said. “I believe if that were to happen to another girl in the adult business that she wouldn’t have had the resources or empowerment to stand up for herself. And I don’t want this to continue happening because the law as it is written is basically victim-shaming.”
In January 2020, the Columbus Public Safety Director terminated the two detectives involved in Daniels’ arrest. Lancaster and Rosser were fired for demonstrating “gross neglect of duty and incompetence.” Kemmerling received a recommended suspension for 240 hours and Soha a recommended 120-hour suspension. Details of any punitive action against Moore, the commander at the time of Daniels’ arrest, weren’t released publicly.
Daniels took the settlement after it received approval from Columbus City Council in November 2019. As of March, she has turned her attention to the New York probe, making herself available as a witness for what has resulted in a historic case against a former president.
“It feels really good, I’m not gonna lie,” Daniels said of her arrest’s outcome.